I.M.A.G.I.N.E.

“From Mother’s Garden.” Photo by Christine B.

Yesterday, our university president, Dr. Les, began a day-long meeting with inviting faculty and staff to think about those with whom we work who have gone out of the way, demonstrated genuine care, and made a positive impact on our lives during the “just completed” academic year. After contemplation, six were selected to share their stories and express gratitude to those individuals. This was an excellent move, and I was heartened after hearing each story.

It’s good to know that people see us as living, breathing, complex beings and not just a cog in the machinery. Furthermore, it’s good to know that we are not alone and there are always those who are willing to “take the burden” or lift us up with words and deeds.

This “lifting” must have been Peggy’s motivation when she wrote Love Notes 27, Prompt 2. The prompt was “Imagine,” and she used each letter of the word to craft seven perfect affirmations:

I think you are magic
My dreams for you are in technicolor
A light inside you shines so bright
Good things are rushing towards you
I believe in you
Never stop exploring your soul
Everything good and beautiful is meant for you

I receive with gratitude each statement as a perfect gift to carry–to bless and inspire others.

What do you imagine for others in your life? How do you help them move from imagination to practice/reality?


About the Image: Today’s purple flowers were shot by another Love Noter, my penfriend Christine B. It was the card she sent for International Women’s Month. The flowers are from her mother’s garden, sent to honor me and the memory of my sister Lori. Hugs, Christine.

Only Kindness: “It Is I You Have Been Looking For”

“Sister Sunflowers,” Card made by Debra D.

I had a hurtful unkindness earlier this week, a cruel one if I look at it closely. Emotionally exhausted and just plain weary of all the unkindnesses of life,  I was on the verge of giving in to the hurt and letting it win. But the God who heals me reminded me of all the beautiful people who shower me with love and kindness every.single.day.

My kindness jar truly overflows.

It’s strange, I guess, but I should be grateful for the unkindness. Such seemingly unnecessary hurts are indeed necessary because they reinforce the importance of compassion and deepen the experience with kindness. 

One of my favorite “kindness” poems, written by Naomi Shihab Nye, underscores the work that must be done before we “know what kindness really is.”  Though the initial landscape is bleak, eventually, we’ll learn to recognize in kindness the friend or shadow who accompanies us everywhere.

 

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye
.
Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.
.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.
.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Note about the image: One of my Love Notes friends, Debra D, kindly sent the card above to me as a “just because.” She filled the card with sheets of bright sunflower stickers. Through the card she honors my love for sunflowers and my relationship with my sister Lori. Isn’t there a purple sunflower somewhere? Debra makes the sweetest cards with markers, stickers, stamps, and various types of paper. You can find more of her “creative doings” on her blog, Meticulosity.

You can read about Nye’s experience which led to the poem in an interview here: The Incomparable Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness.

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 7

The abstract Christmas card above came from my pen friend, Beckra. She always surprises me with her unique approach to photography, and I find this card intriguing. It carries the light of Christmas and the fireworks with which we welcome the coming year, so it is apropos for today, the seventh day of Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.

Ten days ago I read the poem “kindness” by Emina Gaspar-Vrana and I’ve been looking forward to sharing it with you as we say farewell to a year filled with frustrations and victories, love and loss, joy and sorrow. Whatever fell in your path in 2018, I hope that “life was kind to you.”

kindness by Emina Gaspar-Vrana

I hope that this year, life was kind to you;

not in the sense of not challenging you,
not making you question it, or
not causing you pain,

but that it made you discover your strength,
brought you new perspectives and
taught you that healing brings peace

that is kindness,
that is growth,
that is preparing you for greatness and
a better version of yourself–
the person you are becoming and
that you were always meant to be

I wish life is even kinder to you next year

Farewell, 2018.

Kindness Week Day 7: Charge Your Inner Light

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Be kind to yourself.

When I began “Kindness Week,” I knew the prompt for the last post would focus on kindness to self. The words were in my spirit, but tonight as I was typing them, I realized the words felt familiar because I’d already written the post a year ago! I started to scrap the topic, but decided the words bear repeating.  After all, even the kindest among us has difficulty being kind to ourselves.

Here are the words from last summer’s post:

The common misconception is that loving ourselves is self-centered and weak, so we pour all our energies and kindness into others and leave little or nothing for ourselves. Many of us typically miss that the fine point in the “second great commandment” is to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). If we reserve only scraps, disapproval, and unkindness for ourselves, eventually this starvation of self-love will manifest in our acts toward others.

Hollow and mechanical acts of kindness don’t always feel like kindness. So love yourself. Be kind to yourself and you will find that the kindness naturally spills over into your interactions with others.  —Pics and Posts, June 20, 2017

Kindness to ourselves often requires changing the language we use to speak to ourselves. It requires taking care of our minds, our bodies, and our spirits.

Marelisa of Daring to Live Fully offers a list of ways to get started: 17 Ways to Be Kind To Yourself. You can also find a lot of ideas on my self-care board on Pinterest: Take Care. Just recently I encountered a young blogger, a college student, who features a self-care post almost every Sunday. You might want to check out her blog too: The Introvert’s Escape Maneuver.

Earlier this week my son suggested that I close out the seven days of kindness with the message, “be kind to everyone.” It really is that simple.

I encourage you to live with a spirit of kindness. Walk with it. Breathe it. Look for the good in people. Help people in need, including the disheveled stranger who asks for a dollar or two. Drive with courtesy. Give the benefit of the doubt. Forgive easily. Love freely.

Make kindness more than a habit. Make it part of your character.  And remember–we can be heart and light to others only if the inner light is glowing.

 

Note on today’s image: The postcard above was made by Terry L. who participates in both Love Notes and the Global heART Exchange. She sent the card in April, shortly after receiving happy heART mail from me. Her message is clear: “Be kind to yourself. You are amazing! You’re good enough. You are worth it!”

Previous “Kindness Week” posts:

Have a “kind” week!

Kindness Week Day 6: Listen with Your Heart

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Listen with your heart.

Earlier today, I listened to gospel artist Jessica Reedy share a bit of her story before performing her song “Better.” She told of going through a difficult period in her life and keeping the pain to herself. She wondered if people could see her pain, if they could look in her eyes and see that she needed help. They couldn’t, and she confessed, “that made me sink lower.”

Her words cut deep.

We are daily walking with people who are privately coping and functioning through ridiculous pain, hoping someone hears their silent pleas. But we are so busy with our own lives or so focused on our own struggles that we don’t hear each other or take the time to notice the cues when others are hurting.

So today, let’s listen. Give little consideration to the “apparent” happiness. Tune in. Listen keenly. Not just to the words people say. Pay attention to their eyes, their body language.

I’m not suggesting that we probe for information. I’m not suggesting that we solve problems. We must learn how to connect and listen without becoming overly curious and without trying to fix things or save people.

Leave the saving to Jesus.

Today, let’s listen for what’s not said; let’s listen with our hearts and show that we care. Sometimes, that’s all a person needs.

Note on today’s image: The watercolor and ink artwork above was created by my Love Notes pal, Trang K. It is entitled “Golden Rose” in honor of the beautiful rose bushes her husband planted for her. She writes that the “pricking just lets me know that I am alive and that is the greatest gift and joy.” She urges, “Embrace life…with thorns and all.”

Just joining Kindness Week? Be sure to check out the previous posts:

Tune in tomorrow for our final Kindness Week post.

Kindness Week Day 5: Be Small Business-Minded

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Support a Small Business.

It’s no secret that “big box” stores have pretty much pushed smaller stores out of business, but that doesn’t mean they all have to end that way. Some prefer the larger stores and chains because of convenience, lower prices, and product availability. However, in my experience, small businesses generally offer a far better consumer experience. They are personable and are able to tailor their offerings to my needs. They offer quality products and services and excellent customer relations. Sometimes, things cost a little more, but that’s made up for in so many other ways.

So–whether it’s a mom and pop store that has managed to survive the Walmart takeover, the local hardware store or farmer’s market, an Etsy shop or the neighborhood artisan, the friend who’s self-published a book or the cousin who recently opened a restaurant, the independent musician selling CDs in a strip mall parking lot or the 13-year-old pushing a lawnmower to fund a trip to Disney World–be kind to a small business.

Not convinced? Check out this 2016 Forbes article featuring 43 Reasons to Support Small and Independent Businesses.

Note about today’s image: The image above was produced from original art by Paul Nzalamba. Working in the medium of batik, Paul creates images drawn from Uganda, his native country. His images reflect the strength, struggle, and beauty of all people. If you’re interested in seeing more of his work and/or purchasing cards, prints, or lithographs, be sure to visit his site : Nzalamba Artworks. It would be so kind of you to do so.

If you’re just joining Kindness Week, please be sure to check out the previous post:

Mpaka wakati ujao…